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$97.10 a Vote in Redondo Beach Election : Unruh's Losing Effort Sets a Spending Record

August 09, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

Bruce Unruh spent nearly $158,000 on his unsuccessful bid last March to become Redondo Beach city treasurer--about four times the city record, according to recently filed campaign disclosure reports.

Unruh, who got 1,625 votes and came in last in a three-person race, spent $97.10 per vote, one of the highest figures ever in a California municipal election.

"It's a sobering thought, but these things sometimes have to be done," Unruh said in an interview last week. "That's how I felt about it. I had a message to get out and that's how I went about it."

Unruh, 40, has a $20,037 debt from the March campaign, according to the campaign statements filed on the Jan. 31 deadline. He said he owes the money to a Los Angeles-based election consulting firm he hired to run his campaign for the $48,000-a-year post. He said he is not sure how he will pay off the loan.

Son of Jesse Unruh

Unruh is the son of Jesse Unruh, the state treasurer who died last week. More than half of the money that Bruce Unruh raised for his campaign was contributed by his father's campaign fund, which stood at $1.5 million after Jesse Unruh was reelected last November. Jesse Unruh's committee donated $84,000 to Bruce Unruh's campaign, including $49,000 the day before the election.

Bruce Unruh, in turn, helped another family member. He paid his brother, Bradley Unruh, $4,000 for "general operations and overhead," according to the statement. Bruce Unruh said his brother did odd jobs such as assembling yard signs and acting as a messenger.

Most of the remaining $53,000 that Bruce Unruh raised came from financial companies throughout the country, none of which listed Redondo Beach addresses or had any other apparent tie to the city. Bruce Unruh, who was finance director for his father's campaign, said these contributors were connections he made in that job.

"Why should I tap my friends when I have other sources I can go to?" he said in a campaign interview.

Did Not Make Runoff

Unruh's two opponents in the primary charged during the campaign that "Big Daddy's buying him a job," but the candidate ended up in third place and did not make the May runoff.

Twelve-year incumbent Alice DeLong spent only $1.13 a vote in the March primary but got the most votes, 2,240. The third candidate, William MacAlpin, 50, spent $7.51 per vote and got 1,673 votes.

DeLong, 52, who was reelected to office in the May runoff, waged the most expensive campaign of her political career by spending a total of $8,104 on the runoff and general elections.

The previous spending record for a Redondo Beach election was set by former Mayor David K. Hayward, who raised $35,000 and spent $30,925 in an unsuccessful bid for relection in 1981.

$108 a Vote

Statewide, millionaire nightclub owner Gene La Pietra spent more than $334,280--or $108 a vote--on his unsuccessful campaign for the West Hollywood City Council last November. That campaign is believed to be the most expensive municipal effort on a cost-per-vote basis, said officials for the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the California Commission on Campaign Financing--a Westwood-based nonprofit research firm that analyzes local elections.

Tracy Westen, executive director of the California Commission on Campaign Financing, said Unruh's race was probably second only to La Pietra's in the cost per vote.

Some Redondo Beach city officials attempted last year to put an ordinance before voters that would have limited campaign contributions, but they failed to gather enough signatures.

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